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I remember when I was in the awkward teen stage of life. It was so difficult to navigate my way through high school. Unfortunately, the internal criticism didn’t stop when I turned 18; it followed me into adulthood.

Turns out, I’m not alone. According to Katty Kay and Claire Shipman, authors of The Confidence Code for Girls:

  • 92% of teens want to change something about the way they look.
  • 9 out of 10 girls feel pressure to be skinny.
  • 53% of girls are unsatisfied with their bodies (that goes up to 78% by age 17).
  • 7 out of 10 girls will not speak out in a classroom or work environment because of the way they look.

Even today, there are times when I’ve talked myself out of something because my confidence told me I was incapable of handling a job or assignment. There have also been times when I’ve felt not good enough, smart enough, or pretty enough.

And, if you’re honest, you can probably relate to those same feelings. It’s totally normal! We all experience negative, confidence-breaking, and harsh moments within ourselves. We tend to be our biggest critics, and most of the time, we’re super rude to ourselves. I mean, would you walk up to someone and say, “Gosh, your hips are big,” or “You’re totally not smart enough to be a part of THAT conversation with THOSE people”?

So, thinking into the future, what are young girls supposed to do if their adult role models do not set good examples of confidence? What does low self-esteem teach the next generation? I wonder how much those percentages would change if we spoke out more in favor of body positivity and took away the negative stigma around failures and the fear of being embarrassed.

I know it would take a while to accomplish a goal that big, but it isn’t impossible.

There are already countless organizations and empowerment groups that promote confidence-building practices for the rising female generation, but even the best of intentions are pointless if we don’t listen to them.

As human beings, we’re more likely to take action if someone we know is also participating, so mothers, big sisters, cousins, aunts, family friends, ministers, youth leaders, community organization workers, etc., I have a challenge for you!

Below are 10 ways you can teach yourself how to love who you are, enjoy your process, and live in your moment while influencing the future generation of women around you.

  1. Perfection is impossible! Perfection does not equal success. Stop worrying about things being perfect. Settle with, “I know it was my best and that’s good enough.”
  2. Be your own cheerleader! Not everyone is going to support you, so sometimes you have to pat yourself on the back and say, “You did that, girlfriend!”
  3. Don’t look for approval from others. In the past (ok, I’m still working on this), everything I did circled around other people. I wondered if they would like it or if it made others uncomfortable. But now, I ask myself, “Would they do the same for me or are other people in charge of my life?”
  4. Appreciate the small and big things. There are studies that actually link happiness to gratitude! We tend to be more positive when we appreciate things in our life.
  5. Focus on the now! (In my opinion, this one is most important.) We are the happiest and most confident when we are living in the present, according to Kay and Shipman. Stop stressing over what happened because it already happened. And, please stop getting anxious over the future! Work hard, do what you need to do, and just do it! If the end result is bad, just remember, “I can’t change it, but at least I can say I did it.”
  6. Treat yourself with respect. Do I need to go any further? Stop the negative self-talk, doubts, and obsessive desire to be perfect.
  7. Make sure your goals are realistic. Can you really do it? Do you have time for it? Is it something that interests you? Do you want to do it? If no is the answer to any of these, please change the goal for the sake of your happiness and sanity
  8. Rewire your Brain. Yes, it’s possible! Did you know that we can reteach our brains to be more confident and positive? Cut out those negative comments and tell yourself how amazing you are every day!
  9. Say NO! Can all the people-pleasers raise their hands at this time? Yeah, start saying no, and be confident in your no! It’s a great feeling and it also teaches you to stand by your word and build—you guessed it—CONFIDENCE.
  10.  You will fail at some point… I know some of you all are like, “Nope, not me.” Let me be the bearer of bad news. You will fail many times, but that is one of the best parts of life. You get told no, you get told you are not good enough, you didn’t do it right, somebody else won instead of you… I mean I could go on with all the potential failures, but that’s not important. Failure creates your story. Failure makes you stronger. And, failure builds character. Just remember: A minor setback can lead to a major comeback!

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Image from Unsplash.com

The largest college admissions scandal in history had many people shaking their heads in disgust. 

In hopes of getting their kids admitted to prestigious schools, parents used bribery, paid off test administrators to change test scores and paid athletic directors and coaches to add names as potential recruits for sports teams. This is troubling on so many levels. 

Many kids actually worked hard to earn their way into college, but they may have lost their place to someone whose parents worked to play the system. This scandal exposes significant problems in the college admissions process, along with another major dilemma affecting many young people today: overzealous parents trying to snowplow the roads of life for their children. Overparenting your child can cause some major problems.

One parent arranged for someone else to take a college entrance exam for his son. He told the third party it was imperative that his son never know about it. Imagine being the son who thought he earned the score on that test, only to find out from the media that it was a lie because his father made it happen. Talk about robbing someone of their confidence

Parents who do things like this often say the motivation behind their behavior is wanting the best for their child, but at what cost? Keep in mind the definition of success for one child might look very different for another. Parents who create a false sense of accomplishment for their child aren’t helping by overparenting; they are hurting. In the end, these young people will pay a hefty price for their parents’ actions whether they knew about their parents’ actions ahead of time or not.

Warren Buffett once told a group of Georgia Tech students, “If you get to my age in life and nobody thinks well of you, I don’t care how big your bank account is, your life is a disaster.” Buffet realizes that money can’t buy love or happiness, nor does it guarantee success. 

When parents don’t allow their children to fail and learn how to pick themselves up and keep putting one foot in front of the other, they are doing an extreme disservice to their children. Failure is a part of life and can be incredibly motivating when one isn’t afraid of taking risks. Allowing them to experience failure and supporting them as they regain their footing is a very powerful confidence-builder.

Parents have to ask themselves if the motivation behind the overparenting behavior is self-serving. For example, does it just make you look good as a parent or is this in your child’s best interest? 

If your child has no aspirations to attend college, none of the behind-the-scenes maneuvering you do will change that. In fact, it will likely take a huge toll on your parent-child relationship instead.

So what can parents do?

See your child for who he/she is in their gifts, talents, dreams and passions. They will likely have different passions and areas of giftedness that may take them on a path for which you haven’t prepared. You may even want to tell them, “You will never be able to support yourself doing that.” 

Instead of saying those words, help them know what it will take to succeed. Encourage them and put parameters around where you must draw the line, then be brave enough to let them try. Even if they fail, it doesn’t mean it wasn’t a valuable experience. It also doesn’t mean they can’t change their direction if they decide what they are doing isn’t working.

Pediatrician and author Meg Meeker shared these thoughts in a blog post addressing this issue:

“At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter where, or if, your child goes to college. It matters that he is prepared and equipped to lead a healthy adult life. Give him that and you will have given him more than an Ivy League education ever could.”

Looking for more resources? Watch this episode of JulieB TV for an in-depth look on this topic!

Katty Kay is definitely not the only woman to fall into the trap of believing that if she doesn’t map everything out, things will fall apart while she’s away. In fact, more than likely, many women do the very same thing.

Kay is a British journalist, author, and broadcaster. She speaks often about the importance of confidence and competence in women.

Kay and her husband travel a lot. In the past, whenever she planned to leave town, she lined up extra babysitters and stocked the fridge. She made lots of lists of all the kids’ activities and such to ensure that her husband didn’t forget anything. At some point, she realized she went to all of this extra effort to prepare for leaving town, but when her husband went out of town, he just left. This irritated her a bit.

So, she talked with him about it. That conversation went something along the lines of, “Whenever I’m going out of town, I do all of this pre-prep for you to make sure everything gets taken care of. Yet when you go out of town, you do nothing.”

His response was, “Yes, you do, but I didn’t ask you to do that.”

The next time she went out of town, she did nothing. And, lo and behold, the house was still standing and the kids were taken care of when she returned home.

Here’s the deal. According to research, men want to know: Am I adequate? Am I able? Am I any good at what I do on the outside? 

Despite all the well-meaning intentions behind the pre-prep, the message men hear isn’t that their wife loves them so much they’re doing things for them before they leave town. Instead, they hear: “I’m not confident you can remember everything you need to do. So, I’ll put a safety net in place to make sure none of the balls get dropped while I’m away.”

Harvard-educated analyst Shaunti Feldhahn found that three-quarters of the men she surveyed, if forced to choose, would give up feeling loved by their wife if they could just feel respected by her.

Feldhahn wanted to understand this better, and she spoke with a friend about it. He said, “I love my wife, but nothing I do is ever good enough.” He explained that they’d recently had friends over for dinner. Afterward, he cleaned up the kitchen while his wife ran to a meeting. When she came home, his wife kissed his cheek, looked over his shoulder and sighed. She then went into the kitchen and started cleaning the countertops. Feldhahn asked her friend if there was anything his wife could have done differently. He said, “Yes, she could have said thanks.”

Feldhahn explains that when women are thinking about something, they usually process out loud so there’s no question what they’re thinking. On the other hand, when men think and process, they almost do an internal chess match before they ever talk about it. Her research showed that instead of questioning the husband’s decision, saying, “Help me understand,” will often reveal a long, well-thought-out explanation.

For example, one wife went to a birthday party, leaving Dad with the kids. When she returned, she asked her husband why he had given the kids juice for dinner instead of milk. He got mad. She got defensive, and things went downhill from there.

Feldhahn asked the husband to help his wife understand what happened. He shared that when he went to the fridge to get the milk, he realized if he gave the kids milk for dinner there wouldn’t be enough for breakfast. He was going to go get more milk, but the baby was already asleep. They’d been having a terrible time with her sleep cycle, so he didn’t want to wake her up just to go get milk. He decided to give the kids juice, which he diluted by half with water so they wouldn’t have as much sugar. After the explanation, the look on his wife’s face said it all. This was a perfect example of assuming there was no thinking behind the behavior.

Kay says the need for perfection is often the very thing that holds women back at work, at home, and in life in general. Just because you may not have it down perfectly doesn’t mean you aren’t qualified to do the job. Just because your spouse doesn’t clean the kitchen just like you doesn’t mean you have to go behind them and “fix it.” Women have to be willing to step out of their comfort zone and try. According to Kay, learning how to fail and still move forward is important. And finally, as women grow in their confidence and competence, she encourages them to pass it on.

What Men Need From Their Wives

Women don’t want people pigeonholing them, penalizing them for taking risks and questioning their competence. Ironically, this is the exact thing women often do to their husbands.

Feldhahn believes it’s important to let your husband be the dad he wants to be, not the dad you want him to be. Kay also points out that neither women nor men like feeling or being seen as incompetent or lacking in confidence. Feldhahn encourages women to stop sending signals or telling your man he is inadequate and doesn’t measure up. Instead of questioning his decisions, assume he has thought about it, and seek to understand.

Looking for more? Check out this episode of JulieB TV on this topic!

***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear someone is monitoring your computer or device, call the hotline 24/7 at 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***

There’s no doubt that sometimes men and women see and do things differently, but that’s ok! Here’s what husbands say they need from their wives.

College was a good time for me, but something happened when college wasn’t the center of my life anymore: It was like I woke up and didn’t know who I was. Change is hard, and I almost lost myself trying to adjust to my new situation in some unhealthy ways.

Have you ever felt like you were losing your identity?

Author Anne-Marie Alger defines “identity” as “a group of attributes, qualities and values that define how we view ourselves, and how others may also view us.” Identity involves the labels we place on ourselves, the activities we do or even the places we work. But what happens when we let those labels take over our whole lives? We get consumed by one attribute or quality, and then we begin to lose the rest of ourselves. What happens if we are stripped of that one quality or attribute that we strongly identified ourselves with? A guest on Oprah’s podcast Food For Thought said it this way: “We lose ourselves because we are betraying ourselves in some way.” Now that’s food for thought!

For my entire life, people have viewed me as upbeat and very social. But then adulthood hit me after college graduation and I was not ready. I’ve always had people around me, but I wasn’t nearly as social the last semester of school and after graduation because “adulting” required me to be alone more.

Seeing less people and having fewer social interactions caused my moods to change and I was not the upbeat and social Akeyla that everyone knew. My friends and I had to work, so our relationships felt like they were changing in a negative way. We were too busy to connect with each other. I noticed I was changing, and my energy was so different. I felt depressed because my social life wasn’t as full as it had been. And I began to hate that my social life dictated my feelings and mood.

Recently, something hit me while I was teaching at a summer camp. I began to realize that I had let my social life become my identity. This realization helped to change my perspective and as a result, my relationships with my friends and family began to improve. Moving into adulthood, I now know can have faith and confidence in myself, my talents and my abilities.

Here are some tips to remember when you feel like you’re losing your identity:

  • The most important relationship you have is with yourself! Knowing who you are will make it easier to seek help if you begin to lose yourself.
  • Remember to invest in yourself. Alone time can be the best time!
  • You don’t have to build your life around socializing, but there are lots of ways to keep in touch with your friends. The older I get, the more I realize that people are just busy. We can’t be around each other 24/7 but we can still keep in touch.
  • Stay connected with your family. They are your biggest supporters. And guess what? They know you the best! They will probably notice any changes before you do. For example, my Nana noticed the changes in me first.
  • Change isn’t necessarily a bad thing, so get used to it. Find healthy ways to deal with it since it will be happening for the rest of your life!

Dating. Is. Hard. There’s no way around it. On the bright side, you meet a variety of people, learn more about yourself and have some good (and often laughable) awkward stories. So, when you find yourself thinking about forever with that very special someone, it may be tempting to trudge forward with emotions and skip the inner-reflective monologue. But, there is one question every dating person should ask themselves: “Do I really want to marry this person, or do I just want to be married?”

Before you start psychoanalyzing every nook and cranny of your current relationship, be aware that it will take time to answer this question. Let’s talk it through a bit.

The desire to be married often comes from an overarching desire for companionship. We all know life can be pretty heavy due to bills, stress, family issues, health concerns, career disappointments, etc. There are some nights that bar-hopping, movie-binging, or venting to a listening ear just doesn’t sweeten the bitterness of life. Marriage can look like a really good and long-term way to have a sturdy hand to hold from day-to-day. And even though you may not see eye-to-eye on your faith, finances, priorities, or the hopes and dreams you have for your future family, marriage may appear better than the alternative… being alone FOREVER.

The desire to be married can create a monster. This monster will give you blinders that allow you to look past the red flags and past all of the things you originally thought you would never settle for in a spouse.

This post isn’t meant to negate marriage. I think marriage is a wonderful thing, and it really is meant to be a sense of support, security and unconditional love. But a successful marriage requires a lot of work on the front end, including patience and discernment while dating so that you can find a person who inspires you, cares for you and truly helps you be even more like yourself.

When you can examine your relationship and easily see how it is mutually beneficial for both people involved, consider it a good indicator that you’re on the right track. And, maybe you really do want to marry this person.